An Urgent Plea to All Young Men

This year, implant my dear little niece turns ten. Naturally, medical she’s the finest child to ever wear an iPod and, naturally, her birth was that year’s signature event. Or, it was for a happy few days. Petra was born in Texas on a Wednesday afternoon; she wasn’t a week old when two Boeing aircraft ripped the US to pieces.

Like countless others, I watched the television with an unfamiliar fixity. In the hours after the strike, we were slammed by journalism’s shrapnel. The Pentagon had vanished. Chicago’s Sears Tower was gone. What? The telephone in Dallas was resolutely busy, so I watched and watched hoping only to see no flicker of the Lone Star State.

For hours, I watched the television for its dwindling function, news. I’d never been personally struck by a real need for this immediacy. But, my partner, my in-laws and an infant whom I’d yet to meet were so very far away. With telephone lines jammed, the TV offered my only proximity to family. The TV, so faithful in its focus on disaster, offered warmth.

It cooled, I found, very quickly.

Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center again and again and again. When I saw the image, live, for the first time, it was a fiery, catastrophic hit. When I saw it the second time, it had acquired the dimensions and the qualities of cinema. When I saw it a third time, it had an eerily soothing impact. Every time we watched the blow, it softened.

In processing this act of unspeakable violence, television news was doing its strange work. It had frozen death into a memory. Thanks to instant replay, we’d already begun to forget.

Whatever the news, it has become television’s job to process it in a now familiar routine. First, catastrophe happens. Then, the catastrophe becomes a story. Finally, and quickly, the story becomes a dinosaur; an immense and frozen relic of a terrifying past.

When I spoke with my partner a few hours after impact, we each spoke of the “filmic” end of Flight 175. We weren’t trying to be arseholes but both of us had imagined American heroes emerging from the rubble; my money was on Nicolas Cage.

It was not as though we were not colossally frightened. It was not as though we didn’t go on to divide a week’s wages between the Red Crescent and the Red Cross. And it’s certainly not as though we failed to cry for the planet’s greatest city, New York, New York.

It’s just that television had by then acquired the undertaker’s habit of draining, “the tragedy as it unfolds” of all its blood.

This week, I have counted the phrase “the tragedy as it unfolds” a hundred times. I have seen images of heartbreak that serve no purpose higher than melodrama. To see orphaned, bloody babies plucked from refuse or traumatized adults looking for their pets or children bawling in abject, awful confusion does nothing for the viewer but enhance his faculty to disconnect.

A television image viewed has become an image stored in the cryogenic vaults of our memory. Stuck like glue by a poison adhesive to “tragedy as it unfolds” we watch and watch. We wait for television to ignite our warmth. Instead, it freezes our innards.

At best, we can hope to be disturbed by the images from Japan. At worst, we fear we might become insensible.

Life, of course, is grim and tragedy is manifold. Some “compassion fatigue” is expected with a disaster of the scale of 9/11 or Japan’s quakes. But, television’s viciously pornographic depiction of misery is not an inevitable part of life. For the sake of goodness, give me info-graphics, hard information and help-lines. Do not offer me the theft of another human’s grief.

Until television restores what it has stolen, we can begin to repay its debt ourselves. The Red Cross or the Japanese Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are standing by. As the tragedy unfolds.

This article appeared originally at Citysearch
Blame it on poor nutrition. Blame it on workplace rights for women. Hell, tooth
blame it on the Bossa Nova if it gives you any cheer. Whatever the cause, the case is clear: the Generation X man couldn’t find his balls with both hands and a GPS.

Of course, women of the same middle-age range aren’t much better at locating their own sexual core. But, we’ll get to that, briefly, in a minute. Our primary business now is to deliver you, Gen X’s younger brother, from castration. The future of your gender and the future of the planet rest on you wresting back control of your cods.

There are two things a true lady never reveals in company. Well, three if we include the name of her hot-strip waxer. These are (a) her age and (b) her bedroom tastes. For the sake of this urgent manifesto to young, hard men, I’m going to break this rule. Bear with me.

First, I am 41. Second, I am mostly a lezzer. Considered alone, these are the sort of tedious facts you could do very well without learning. In the context of an argument against the character of middle-aged men, however, they are crucial; they qualify me to talk directly to the topic. Permit me to explain.

When I moved in with my girlfriend some years ago, my mother set down her switchblade and gin to shriek to the heavens, “Why? Why? Was it something I’ve done?”. I reassured her that she’d done nothing to endorse pussy whatsoever; in fact, she’d done her level best to promote a burning fear. The reason I’d installed a woman in my bed was due chiefly to the shittiness of my gentlemen age-mates.

(Of course, that my girlfriend has the kind of pop-up arse on which you could rest a TV-dinner didn’t hurt. But mum was better off not learning this detail.)

There is a reason that women of my age transformed into cougars, lezzers and chronically dissatisfied Sarah Jessica Parkers in such great numbers. It is not down to an aversion for cock; au contraire, there is little that remains as enticing to me as the thought of a capable penis attached to a capable man. It is down to the softening, both literal and figurative, of the contemporary middle-aged bloke.

When I was in my twenties, I searched the pubs, clubs and organic food providers of the city for a man whose masculinity took the form I’d long admired. This was not, to be clear, an arrogant quest. There are those Jessica Parkers who strap on their eight-inch Louboutins and go out into the night with a laundry-list that describes the Ideal Man. I never punch above my weight and was not out to find some Franco whose net-worth and talent were only outdone by his cock size. Masculinity is not about chiselled perfection; it had more to do, I’d always thought, with an imperfect, internal struggle.

The masculinity I crave, and the masculinity lost by my age-mates, sees aggression tempered by reason; desire tempered by charm. I’d always thought of masculinity as a blistering blend of swagger with humility; of the skill to lead with the ability to concede. Personally, I couldn’t give a fuck if a bloke opens a door for a woman. More important was the likelihood that he’d open his eyes to his own potential.

Without wishing to come off like a Boner-Killing Feminist, and this is an especial risk for lezzers, I suggest that the potential of men to succeed in the wider world still exceeds that of his sisters. Professionally, politically and economically, men retain a clear lead. Now, this is just a statement of fact and not a Boner-Killing whine. And I mention it only because, some time in the nineties, the men of my generation seemed to lose sight of their relative privilege. All they could see was the threat to its decline.

I saw the best cocks of my generation destroyed by Pearl Jam, skunk weed and the mortal fear that women had no immediate need of their company. And this, of course, was utter hooey. Whether it’s primal or social, our need for a forceful masculine energy is great. Women are inspired and improved by the ambition, single-mindedness and hunger of men. It was awful to see masculinity draped in flannel shirts and doused in self-doubt; a bong strapped to its nose and a prescription for Zoloft in its wallet.

By the time I was thirty, I thought things might have improved. My generation of men began to reproduce. There is nothing, surely, like the authority of semen to reactivate an inert man-power.

Instead, these guys migrated their old Pearl Jam CDs to iPod and continued to give up the good of their gender. Instead of reclaiming his chivalry, his gonads and his drive he bought a fucking Bugaboo ergonomic pram and became fatter, softer and more feminized than a suburban choir singing the songs of Michael Bublé.

Nearly every straight man of my age and acquaintance allows his nuts to be crushed and kept in a jar in the kitchen by a woman who, it must be said, is as much at odds with her place in the scheme of things as her husband. She must be. There’s no other way to explain the persistence of stupid fucking phrases like, “You go girl” in the culture.

Together, my generation of men and women disposed much that was wonderful about masculine identity. The women were weaned at the poison teat of Sex and the City and the men became husks who crammed their mouths with erectile dysfunction medication instead of beef carpaccio.

And so, it’s up to you, Gen Y, to save the planet man. It’s your job to ignore the example of these milquetoasts; to become less Pearl Jam and a fuckload more Kanye and to howl for the re-emergence of a manhood that owes less to pharmaceutical companies and much more to a tradition of bravery and progress and good, consensual fucking.

This article was initially published in FHM Magazine

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